Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada—Monday, 29 November, 2021. On 9 December, the MacKenzie Art Gallery is set to open its latest exhibition Dawit L. Petros: Spazio Disponibile. This exhibition, guest curated by Irene Campolmi, underscores the unexplored historical gaps in European memory and the links between colonization, migration, and the consequential ongoing humanitarian crises.
Organized and circulated by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, Ontario, Spazio Disponibile (Italian for “available space”) exhibits the work of artist Dawit L. Petros. Petros’s career began with his studies in history at the University of Saskatchewan, and his work now explores underrepresented colonialist history of Europe informed by seven years of research in relation to migration—particularly the migration of groups from the Horn of Africa through Italy and various parts of Europe. In reference to advertising sections of widely distributed 20th century magazine, Rivista Coloniale, the title of this exhibition suggests the biased ideology of colonialism which views the lands of Africa as space available to occupy and exploit. With a desire to understand the events in the contemporary era of colonialism, Petros’s work highlights the reality: narratives told though a colonial perspective leave histories suppressed, displaced, or unexamined.
“Petros’s poignant and subtle exploration of the lesser-known colonial history of Italy is surprisingly relevant to prairie histories.” relays Executive Director & CEO John G. Hampton, “We are so pleased to be hosting his first solo exhibition in Saskatchewan, and for the opportunity to draw out the unique parallels with our own history of immigration and settlement which the artist, and our audiences, are sure to bring to this beautiful body of work.”
Utilizing archival materials compiled over the duration of his research, attesting to an Italian occupation in Ethiopia and Eritrea between the late 19th and early 20th century, Petros’s vast collection of works in Spazio Disponibile investigate the ongoing impacts of this colonial narrative. Comprised of a multimedia installation of serigraphs, photographs, sculptural works, a film and soundscape, the exhibition underlines the connection between the contemporary resurgence of nationalism and a suppressed colonial past—which continue to facilitate displacement and disruption. Dawit L. Petros’s works act as an example of an integrated reading of history—analyzing displacement along with the rise of the colonial empire in proximity and as intertwined events, rather than isolated events that appear to have distance between them. Challenging an initial comprehension of history, visitors to the MacKenzie are encouraged to view the convergence of these events—open until 3 April 2022 in the Sim Gallery.
“It has a been a rich collaboration working with Dawit and Irene for the Regina installment of this exhibition at the MacKenzie.” says Tak Pham, Associate Curator at the MacKenzie, “In addition to learning about the history of another colonial power, we also have a chance to reflect on Canada’s role in this global story as it has become, and continues to be, the destination for many migrants impacted by colonialism.”
The exhibition is organized and circulated by The Power Plant in collaboration with The MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, and with exhibition coordination from Tak Pham, Associate Curator. It was sponsored by the TD Ready Commitment, and generously supported by lead donor Lonti Ebers. Additional support for the tour was provided by The Gilder.
ABOUT DAWIT L. PETROS
Dawit L. Petros is a visual artist, researcher and educator. His work is informed by studies of global modernisms, theories of diaspora, and postcolonial studies. Petros completed the Whitney Independent Study Program, an MFA in Visual Art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Tufts University; a BFA in Photography from Concordia University and a BA in History from the University of Saskatchewan. Recent exhibition venues include Oslo Kunstforening, Oslo, Norway; 13th Biennial of Havana, Matanzas; The Kansas City Art Institute’s H&R Block Artspace, Kansas City, MO; Huis Marseille Museum of Photography, Amsterdam, NL; The Kennedy Museum of Art at Ohio University, Athens, OH; The Studio Museum in Harlem, NYC; The National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC; The Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit, MI; The Durban Art Gallery in Durban, SA; Medina Galerie Mediatheque in Bamako, Mali; The Royal Ontario Museum of Art in Toronto, ON and The Lianzhou International Photo Festival in Lianzhou, China. His works have been recognized with awards including an Independent Study Fellowship at the Whitney Museum of American Art, an Art Matters Fellowship, Canada Council for the Arts Production Grants, and Artist Residencies at The Studio Museum in Harlem, The McColl Center for Visual Art, and Addis Ababa Photo Fest.
Dawit L. Petros is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Photography at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is represented by Tiwani Contemporary in London, UK and Bradley Ertaskiran in Montreal, Canada.